Julie Myerson column

Sunday night: we're getting ready to go out to dinner. "Should I shave?" - Jonathan rubs his chin.

"They expect it."

"I won't then."

I look at him. "I like you better when you shave." He sighs and plugs in his shaver in a beleaguered way. "But don't empty your stubble all over the basin."

Jacob comes in, sniffing his discarded underpants. His tummy and back are covered in livid, picture-book spots. I grab him; he wriggles.

"Jacob's got some funny spots," I call to Jonathan over the noise of the shaver.

"What?"

"Can I get the torch and go and see how the squirrel is?" asks Jacob.

There's a squirrel huddled under bricks in our yard. It fell out of an upstairs window, the third squirrel in a year to get stuck in our chimney.

For more than an hour we waited by the opened fireplace, wafting a jar of peanut butter. But when the animal emerged, it just skittered around, crazed and shrieking, blinded by the sudden noon of the sunlight. I screamed.

"It's going to jump at my throat!"

"Don't be a moron."

Sweating, Jonathan trapped it under a plastic seaside bucket and then slid a piece of cardboard underneath. We manoeuvred the frantic, squawking rodent to the open window. We were aiming for the extension roof just below but we pulled our hands away too quickly and, well ...

"He's just sitting there breathing," Jacob comes back upstairs, panting.

"If it's injured we should kill it," I mutter to Jonathan.

"Be my guest." He knocks his razor against the side of the basin - snowfall of banned stubble. He doesn't rinse the basin.

The dinner's in Maida Vale. The sky's still flushed, the birds still loud, flesh-coloured blossom stacked waxily above our heads. "Oh," I say, "I love that smell."

"What smell? I can't smell anything."

At dinner, a big man in a brown linen suit confides in me that he works for MI5. "What? You actually work in that amazing Lego building at Vauxhall? What's it like inside?"

"Well," he pauses, "It's actually very dark."

"Dark! But you can still work?"

"Just about. But then there's the white noise."

"What?"

"So that no one can bug what anyone's saying - a security measure."

I gasp.

"But if you need to talk to someone you put on special headphones, blot it out."

"Julie," says Jonathan, "You're too gullible."

We argue about the homeless, Dennis Potter's life work, why banks loan money to small businesses, whether a friend's small business will eventually go bust, and whether the River Cafe Cook Book is any good for vegetarians.

Then we drive back through the centre of London, through a landscape of people eating and singing and throwing up and lolling in each other's arms and bedding down in corrugated cardboard beneath cashpoint machines.

A car's windscreen lies in icy blue crumbs on the pavement. An ambulance wails past, slick car ads are illuminated on billboards, litter floats in hopeless circles, caught in a wind trap.

"I knew he was kidding," I tell Jonathan, "About MI5. I was just playing along."

"Like hell you were."

I loll into sleep thinking of the murky green darkness of the Thames caressing the front of the MI5 building.

Next day, Emily-down-the-road finds the squirrel in her daughter's treehouse and takes it to the vet's. "The vet's?"

Jonathan shrugs. "I told her as far as I'm concerned it's a rat with a tail and if it even sniffs our chimney again, it's history."

"You're a hard man. There are people who really love animals and Emily's one of them. I've seen her almost in tears about the cats."

Exhausted and hungover, I take all the children and queue for two hours at the overheated health centre to see a locum about Jacob's spots. I might as well not have bothered.

"Rash," his command of English is similar to my grasp of the security services. He leans back, unshaven, spots of food solidified on his clothes.

"I just want to know if it's OK to send him to school. He's had chickenpox and German measles already, you see."

The man yawns, "You - surely - no consider send child to school with rash?"

I stiffen, "It depends - with an allergic rash, probably, yes."

The brown carpet in the room smells of skin and pee and Raphael and Chloe are rolling and fighting on it, near breaking point after two hours in a hot waiting room. "Stop it now!" my voice soars unattractively as I try to prise them apart. "I have to talk to the doctor!"

The man throws up his hands, "He stay off school, that is all!"

"But he's perfectly well -"

"I give you some cream, for dry skin."

"You don't keep a child off school with dry skin -"

"Raphael," says Chloe with a squirm in her voice, "Pull down my knickers." (He does.) "Stick your finger up my bum." (He does, sniffs it.)

"Right, OK," I yank them by their collars, "that's it, we're going, thank you, doctor, for your time."

On the pavement, I line them up, shout at them, then shoo them into the car. In front of us there's a skip containing a stained and rain-sodden mattress and a dead Christmas tree.

"I feel I want to bite someone," observes Jacob as we sit in devastated silence.

"I feel I want to bite the doctor," I admit.

By the time we've all stopped laughing, it's begun to rain.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003